A top Defra civil servant has refused to rule out the possibility farmers could face higher costs as a result of the Government’s ‘Green Brexit’.
Nick Barter, deputy director of Defra’s Natural Environment Strategy, told Farmers Guardian he ‘did not know’ whether proposals in the 25 Year Environment Plan would penalise farmers at a Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum seminar last week.
The plan promises to move towards a ‘more effective application’ of the polluter pays principle and outlines plans to clamp down on pollution from farms by limiting use of manures, slurries and chemicals.
Asked whether these proposals would place an additional burden on farmers in future, Mr Barter said: “I do not know. That is to be determined through the consultation which will be coming out on the future of farming support.”
Mr Barter also suggested there would be further information in the Government’s upcoming policy statement which will set out proposed new environmental principles, including the polluter pays principle.
A consultation is to be launched ‘early this year’ on the statement, which will ‘draw on the EU’s current principles’ and underpin future policy making.
NFU vice president Guy Smith said: “Our profitability as farmers, as well as our competitiveness, are heavily influenced by both the cost to the farmer of the regulatory regime and by the level of support.
“If our Government is hatching a plan to increase regulatory costs on the farm sector while reducing support, then they need to be aware this will squeeze farm businesses into extinction.
“This, in turn, will simply increase our dependency as a nation on imported food produced in places where farmers get greater levels of support or have lower costs due to lighter regulation.
“Under Brexit, any sensible Government should be looking to encourage food production, not throttle it.”